My adventures in grocery frugality

Posted by Sir Four at 11:00pm Sep 3 '11
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So, I decided to get into extreme couponing. It's kind of a fun hobby once you start getting the hang of it. For the longest time I could do nothing but marvel in amazement at the stories of people getting over $100 in groceries for like..5 bucks. How is that even possible??

Well, it turns out that such extreme examples are NOT really possible, generally.* Once in a blue moon, maybe. BUT- getting over 50% off your grocery bill is relatively easy to do once you understand a few things.

The first thing to understand about extreme couponing is that you are no longer shopping like a normal person. You are matching coupons with sales almost exclusively. Rather than assembling your shopping list around what you'd like to eat that week, you do the reverse and plan to eat around what your shopping list ends up being based on sales/coupons. That means you don't always buy what you'd like, and you definitely throw brand loyalty out the window.

The second thing to understand is that you need multiple copies of the same coupons. The reason is that you're going to be buying multiples of the same product when there is a good deal. Over time, you create a "stockpile" of stuff you've gotten good deals on.

The third thing is you've got to find a store that doubles coupons. Luckily, most stores around me double up to 99¢. Coupon doubling is important in getting things costing as little as possible.

The fourth thing is, you need a good web site where people assemble lists of the best deals for the stores in your area. I use, and it's great.

Fifth, you need a printer, because there are lots of online coupons to print out.

Over the last month, I've saved around 50% on every grocery trip I've made. I've gone to multiple stores just to buy their particular deals that week. I'm beginning to amass a nice stockpile of the cheap products I've bought.

What's an example of a good deal? Here's one: whoever makes Cocoa Puffs came out with a new version shapped like little brownies (it basically tastes the same as regular Cocoa Puffs). Whenever some new thing comes out, they usually promote it with a coupon in the Sunday paper. So in this case, there was a 75¢ off coupon. A few weeks later, one of my local stores put the cereal on sale for $1.88. Oh, and they double coupons. So $1.88 - 2 X 75¢ = 38¢ per box. That's damn cheap. I didn't have multiple coupons at the time, so I was only able to buy one.

How do you get multiple coupons? Some people buy five or ten copies of the Sunday paper just to get them. I get the ones my grandma doesn't want, so that's two copies that way for me. But I noticed last week that if I go to my town's recycling center, just peering into the newspaper collection thing I could see several coupon inserts tossed away. So I grabbed 'em. I'm going to try doing this weekly now.

Do stores really let you use multiple copies of the same coupon? Well, usually they've got a coupon policy posted online. My Cocoa Puff store reserves the right to limit multiple copies of the same coupon to five if you're holding up the line. Generally they don't care, because manufacturers reimburse the store for the value of the coupon. You can also make multiple trips if they've got a LIMIT 2 or whatever on the sale.

So, as a newbie to the whole thing, I think I'm doing fairly well. I'd like to see if I could boost my savings toward 60% and beyond. It's tough because staples like milk, meat, etc. generally don't get coupons. I do stock up on, for example, boneless chicken breast when it's $1.99/lb or better. It freezes well!

Now if I've cut my monthly grocery bill in half from $400 to $200, that's $2,400/year in savings. Pretty darn awesome!

* what they don't tell you is, often they've racked up lots of "$$$ off your next purchase" rewards to get that degree of savings....and that requires previous real purchases.

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